Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Sammy Sosa has stayed so far off the radar that his long-running absence from Cubs Convention didn't even come up during last weekend's Q&A session with ownership.

And the Cubs can't go viral all the time and dominate every offseason news cycle, with the National Baseball Hall of Fame revealing the election results on Wednesday and welcoming Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez as part of its 2017 class.

But it's become out of sight, out of mind for Sosa, who barely crossed the 5-percent threshold (8.6) needed to remain on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for another year.

Sosa — a seven-time All Star, 1998 National League MVP and the franchise's all-time leader with 545 home runs (and 609 overall) — hadn't gained any traction at all during his first four years under BBWAA consideration, hovering between 12.5 and 6.6 percent.

It's complicated with Sosa, a diva personality who experienced a dramatic late-career renaissance and got named in a New York Times report that exposed him as one of the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 (during what was supposed to be an anonymous survey).

The Cubs have undergone a complete makeover since Sosa walked out in 2004, leaving him without many allies in the organization. It's nothing personal, but in the past the Ricketts family has hinted that Sosa could mend certain fences and fill in some of the blanks he once left open during an unconvincing performance in front of Congress.

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The Cubs brought Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg to meet President Barack Obama during their Martin Luther King Jr. Day visit to the White House and keep adding former players to the front office. It's awkward after a World Series run where so many alumni showed up to do TV work, throw first pitches, spray champagne or simply watch a rare playoff game at Wrigley Field.

— If Sosa's looking for a roadmap, Manny Ramirez did his penance and cooperated with Major League Baseball to the point where Cubs president Theo Epstein shockingly hired him as a Triple-A Iowa player/coach in the middle of the 2014 season, something that would have been unthinkable during their clashes with the Boston Red Sox.

As a hitting consultant, Ramirez took a come-and-go-as-you-please arrangement, becoming a national story during the 2015 playoffs but largely staying away from the 2016 championship team, perhaps gearing up for his independent-ball comeback in Japan this year. Even after failing multiple drug tests, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his generation still finished at 23.8 percent in his first year on the BBWAA ballot.

— Lee Smith (34.2 percent) — a drafted-and-developed Cub and the franchise's all-time leader with 180 saves — didn't come close in his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot. Smith had been grandfathered when the Hall of Fame narrowed the eligibility window to 10 years, possibly trying to squeeze Steroid Era symbols like Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent).

— This will make Cub fans feel old: Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano are Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time in 2018, when based off this year's returns Trevor Hoffman (74) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7) should be building momentum toward the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown.

Illini running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn announces transfer

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USA TODAY

Illini running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn announces transfer

The guy who went into last season looking like the Illini's biggest offensive weapon announced his transfer Wednesday.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn announced on Twitter that he'll be transferring away from Lovie Smith's program. His decision comes after a 2016 season in which he started the as the team's primary running back and finished as the third option in the Illinois backfield.

"After much thought, consideration and discussing this with my family, I have decided to explore different avenues to obtain my bachelor's and athletic endeavors," Vaughn wrote on Twitter. "I want to take a moment to express my appreciation to the University of Illinois and the coaching staff for the opportunity to not only gain experience academically but as an athlete as well. Will forever love the Illini Nation."

Vaughn played in 11 of the Illini's 12 games this past season, finishing as the team's third-leading rusher with 301 yards. He trailed Kendrick Foster (720 yards) and Reggie Corbin (523 yards), who emerged as the offense's preferred rushing options.

Vaughn had one big game in 2016, rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown in Illinois' 48-23 loss to North Carolina. Take that game out, and Vaughn totaled a mere 185 yards in his other 10 games. His carries plummeted after the first two weeks. After rushing 17 times in the opener and 15 times against North Carolina, Vaughn received just 28 carries the remainder of the season, including just one carry in four separate games.

The lack of production and opportunity doesn't make Vaughn's transfer much of a surprise. But in light of what he did as a true freshman just one season earlier, the fact that Vaughn is departing says something.

Recruited by Tim Beckman, Vaughn was one of the Illini's highest-rated recruits in that 2015 class. He rushed for 723 yards on just 157 carries as Josh Ferguson's backup, including turning in a huge 180-yard, two-touchdown game in a 48-14 win over Purdue.

Now, he'll continue his career elsewhere.